Style and Tone

Discussing Style and Tone in technical documentation in the technical writing field is usually a one-minute conversation that really doesn’t even address core issues. Usually, the conversation is about style guides or templates (which has nothing to do with style) and tone hardly even enters into it.

Here are some quick definitions:


Style is the cumulative effect of choices about words, their forms, and their arrangement in sentences. Style is not just a decoration but rather is a atter of substance. Style affects comprehesnion and a reader’s attitude toward the document.


Tone is the writer’s attitude toward the reader as well as the subject matter. It describes the writer’s relationship to the reader—colleague to colleague or teacher to student. Tone also describes one’s own persona. Persona is the mask you wear as a writer. Do you see yourself as an authority on a given subject or an explorer sharing your findings. That’s tone.

Planning and Ergonomics

In a collaborative environment with multiple teams, communication is critical. To illustrate this point, a picture is worth a thousand words, no?

Ten Characteristics of a Good Technical Editor

In no particular order,

  • Knows the difference between big picture and details
  • Advocates for the document’s audience
  • Exercises critical thinking
  • Knows the difference between copy editing and technical editing
  • Knows the difference between content and design
  • Maintains communication with clients and other stakeholders
  • Maintains style and tone of documents
  • Can distinguish technical jargon from effective writing
  • Edits according to established practices and style guides (i.e., is not arbritrary)
  • Works with writers and subject matter experts in a collaborative and respectful manner

Technical Writing Style

Last night, I taught one of my best technical writing style classes ever. It’s funny, but I was super nervous before the class—I must have known I was destined for greatest (or something). I think what made the class go so well was that there was a consistent flow from introduction to final farewell that built on the idea that in order to write good technical documentation, you need to understand your audience. I even tied in or foreshadowed themes that I know I’ll be teaching in the ensuing weeks.

The flow from after the break from the card game (barnga) to the presentation on discourse communities to the final humorous presentation of the Grand Central Station freeze worked really well. They get it and they had fun getting it.

Next week, I need to find a way to incorporate the graphic I made a while back lampooning everything that’s wrong with technical documentation:
Where academia meets bureacracy

Kiss Method could really help now

Once again, I’ve been too ambitious and have nearly shot myself in the foot on this site. I’m pulling back to a simple WordPress site until I’m satisfied (and later perhaps bored) with it. Trying to set up a WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal would be super fantastic, but that’s the whole problem. I need less super fantastic and more simple.
More to come…very soon.

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I had seen other sites designed by Jason, and was impressed by what I saw. I could not be happier with the results. The graphic design is clean, crisp, bold and contemporary. Every visual element – colour, spacing, font, icon – has been carefully researched and selected to create a unified and eye-catching design and layout, while the content is effectively and efficiently organised in a clear and easy-to-navigate format. From the big picture to the smallest detail, Jason has managed to capture exactly the qualities of personality and professionalism that I wanted my site to present to the world.